December 12, 2022 — The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Discerning Deacons and members of the Women and Ministeriality Thematic Core Group of the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon (CEAMA) joined together to organize an intercontinental pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City August 31- September 5, 2022. Today, we publish this synthesis, in the hopes of contributing to the Continental Stage of the global synod – For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.
In light of the fact that the synod’s Working Document for the Continental Stage names the “critical and urgent” task to “rethink women’s participation,” (#60) we want to present the fruits of our dynamic encounter and the meaning and significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe as an offering to deepen the Church’s discernment on the ministerial roles of women, as well as the possibility for women to preach in parish settings and to be ordained as deacons.
Who we are, how this came to be
One of the thematic core groups of CEAMA is Women and Ministeriality which emerged from the Amazon Synod of 2019: “[Women’s] leadership must be more fully assumed in the heart of the Church, recognized and promoted by strengthening their participation in the pastoral councils of parishes and dioceses, and also in positions of governance” (FD 101). In its plan of action, this core group has set itself the task of animating, recognizing, supporting, and deepening the understanding of the ministerial roles of women who contribute to the pastoral mission of the Church in the Amazon; studying the theology of the diaconate and the ordination of women to the diaconate; discerning paths towards new ministerial roles instituted for women; and advocating for the presence of women at decision-making tables and in ecclesial spaces.
Discerning Deacons was launched in the United States in April 2021, inspired by the witness of the Amazonian Synod and nurtured in virtual spaces of communal discernment during the height of the pandemic. Through prayer, education, relationship building, and formation, Discerning Deacons strives to foster a synodal Church. It is a growing community of witnesses who testify to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the call women receive from their communities to serve and lead as synodal deacons.
Moved by the encounter of St. Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the bishop
The in-breaking of God’s healing and transformative presence in the Americas through the story of Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the local bishop provides people in ministry with a source of inspiration, perseverance, and protagonism on the journey of forming a synodal Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas, helps to inspire the call to encounter, listen, dialogue, and discern. And in the aftermath of years of clergy and ecclesial abuse from which the Church and the People of God are still healing, the encounter with Guadalupe becomes the ground for building a new vision and practice of ministeriality for the healthy exercise of authority in our Church.
The pilgrimage was inspired by the Latin American Ecclesial Assembly (November 2021) and the global synod process of walking together in faith across continents, cultures, languages, and histories. This is not a new path for the Church in the Americas, but is in continuity with the dreams shared by St. John Paul II, who exhorted the Church across the Americas to actively foster bonds of solidarity and communion, to incarnate the Gospel in our intertwined realities.
“I asked that the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops reflect on America as a single entity, by reason of all that is common to the peoples of the continent, including their shared Christian identity and their genuine attempt to strengthen the bonds of solidarity and communion between the different forms of the continent’s rich cultural heritage. The decision to speak of “America” in the singular was an attempt to express not only the unity which in some way already exists, but also to point to that closer bond which the peoples of the continent seek and which the Church wishes to foster as part of her own mission, as she works to promote the communion of all in the Lord.” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation: Ecclesia In America; Given at Mexico City, January 22, in the year 1999, by Pope John Paul II)
Fifty-six pilgrims journeyed to Mexico City for five days, moved by a shared devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and a living commitment to foster a synodal, missionary Church. Pilgrims arrived from across the Amazon – Brazil, Bolivia, and Colombia – together with participants from 14 states in the US, including delegations from Los Angeles, Minnesota, Chicago, San Francisco, Ohio, South Bend, Washington, D.C., and Miami.
Father Eleazar López Hernández of Mexico, an expert on indigenous theology and consultor to the Amazon Synod in 2019, joined pilgrims to help inform our journey to Tepeyac as we sought to learn from the history, cultures, and faith of the peoples of Mexico. His presentation revealed the story of Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the bishop as a powerful series of encounters that can guide the vision for a synodal Church. He helped root pilgrims in the perspectives of indigenous peoples, and he introduced the Nican Mopohua, the translated, indigenous Náhuatl text recounting Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparitions to Juan Diego.
We intentionally created a space where each person’s voice could be received and where we could become bridge-builders: taking the time to offer interpretation, intentionally connecting across differences of language, culture, and personal histories while centering the voices of women whose lives and ministry incarnate both the wounds and the gifts of the people of God. We were knit together through our individual, personal devotion to Santa Maria de Guadalupe, and found an expansiveness under her mantle where we experienced a church that seeks to enlarge the space in our tent through inculturation and dialogue.
Through lively celebrations of the Eucharist, synodal dialogue, communal discernment sessions, and day-long journeys to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and other sacred sites, pilgrims sought to live these core questions together:
- What do the encounters between Our Lady of Guadalupe, Juan Diego, and the bishop reveal for how we are to walk on a synodal path together in the third millennium?
- What is being revealed about women’s roles, leadership, and gifts for ministry for the Church today?
This document is one witness of how we are living these questions prayerfully, one step at a time. We present it as a living sign of our encounter with the Mother of God, who calls to each of us to go on a journey to engage our bishops, to be bridge-builders for the sake of the Gospel. Together we seek Guadalupe’s intercession as we unite to protect mother earth, ensure life for future generations – especially those who are made poor, exploited, and on the margins – and become a Church that serves through solidarity, accompaniment, and prophetic witness.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the Poor, pray for us.
 “Almost all reports raise the issue of full and equal participation of women: ‘The growing recognition of the importance of women in the life of the Church opens up possibilities for greater, albeit limited, participation in Church structures and decision-making spheres’ (EC Brazil). However, the reports do not agree on a single or complete response to the question of the vocation, inclusion and flourishing of women in Church and society. After careful listening, many reports ask that the Church continue its discernment in relation to a range of specific questions: the active role of women in the governing structures of Church bodies, the possibility for women with adequate training to preach in parish settings, and a female diaconate.” (Document for the Continental Phase #64)
 “Guadalupe: Luz y Cambio de Nuestra Realidad”, by Rev. Clodomiro L. Siller Acuña is a translation into Spanish of the Nican Mopohua, the oldest surviving text recounting Our Lady of Guadalupe’s apparitions. The Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Mexico City authorized the printing of the Nican Mopohua in 1649.